Politics and Conference Realignment

By Dennis Berry

Conference Realignment has Gone too Far

Conference realignment has officially jumped the shark. So now it needs to be stopped. From this point nothing good can come from it.

That point came when the New York Times' Pete Thamel released a story that West Virginia going to the Big 12 was a done deal on Tuesday. The Mountaineers has applied and been accepted into the conference. There was even word that a press conference would be held on Wednesday to announce the move.

As ESPN's Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast my friend!"

Wednesday morning brought news that West Virginia's move was on hold. Did the Big 12 get cold feet? Maybe they were not ready to expand to a school that was over 700 miles away from the closest member of the conference. That member is Missouri, which is exploring their options and may move to the SEC. If Missouri does leave, that would mean the closest school would be Iowa State, over 800 miles away.

Then on Wednesday Thamel reported that Louisville, another Big East member, had suddenly come up on the radar. Louisville would fit better geographically. They also have a recent history of football success, as well as tradition as one of the better basketball programs.

Why did Louisville suddenly appear? It appears that they had a little help from one of their alumni. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, used his connections from congress to get a push for Louisville.

From Thamel's story:

"Two other people with direct knowledge said that the lobbying of the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, had helped Louisville. His communication with Oklahoma's president, David Boren, a former senator, and Texas Tech's chancellor, Kent Hance, a former congressman, played a role in raising Louisville's fortunes. Hance confirmed that McConnell called him to push Louisville."

There begins the need to end conference realignment. Because once one politician decides he needs to intervene in something. That opens the flood gates for others to do so. It did not take long for West Virginia's Senators to speak up. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia even went as far as to say that a perhaps a Senate investigation needs to place.

This leads one to believe that the elected officials of this country have nothing else to do. That this country is in great shape and they have the free time to pull strings to help their school. Sadly we know that is not the truth. This country has more than enough issues that need to be taken care of, and all of them take priority over what conference a school is in.

The question that fans need to wonder about is what will happen to the Big East? Once it was the best basketball conference in the country. Now it appears to be falling apart.

First there was the loss of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC. The loss of Syracuse may be the most shocking. Syracuse was an original member of the Big East in 1979. Pittsburgh joined in 1982. Both schools have about as deep of roots as you can in the conference.

Then after that came word thar Connecticut, fresh off its 2011 NCAA Basketball title wanted to join the ACC as well. They were not the only school. Apparently Rutgers was also interested in moving to the ACC. There is now even talk that Norte Dame may pull all their sports out of the Big East and look towards the Big 10 or Big 12.

While all this is going on, and while his school is trying to get into the Big 12, Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino is trying to save the Big East. Pitino has a personal interest in saving the Big East. He is a Big East guy. He is from the northeast. He used to coach Providence in the 1980s. Pitino is a Big East guy, so this makes sense.

It just seems odd that Pitino is trying to save the Big East, while his school is trying to move to another conference. Maybe Pitino is doing it because he loves the Big East, which makes sense. Maybe he is doing it to show that his school is trying everything to help the conference and when it falls apart they won't look so bad in the public eye.

Right now we can only hope that this all comes to an end soon. It is a complete mess and at this point nothing good is going to happen. It appears that a once great conference is going to be finished or just a shell of its former self.

At the beginning of this I will admit I was fascinated by it. I wondered which school would move where. Which conferences will be left standing in the end?

Now that politicians are involved and a great basketball conference is being gutted, it's just sad. Once you "jump the shark" nothing else good can happen.

For a different view, check out Missouri to the SEC.

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